The Adopt-a-Team Project is one writer’s attempt to become a fan of a college football program and explore the ins and outs of fandom. He ended up choosing the Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs as his team.
This was the week I began feeling it.
While watching the Mocs completely dominate East Tennessee State on Saturday in a 37-7 win on the road, I found myself chattering at the telecast. It’s something I’ve done all my life while watching my favorite teams with my own private verbal Twitter feed of commentary, jokes and critiques that somehow doesn’t drive my family up the wall. “Great call.” “C’mon, really? Throw it away!” “@%&#$$&!!!”
It hit me in the second quarter — I was finally getting deeper into fandom with the Mocs. Here’s how I got to that point in just one week after completing my Chattanooga Mocs 101 class with Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins:
1. I began participating on the message boards. I’ve never been much of a message board kind of guy, but as I wrote last week, it was one way to dig deeper. And because I live about 830 miles away from the team I root for, it drew me that much closer into the community.
Did you know it’s pronounced “Chad-da-new-ga” and not “Chat-Nooga” (the latter doesn’t make residents happy)? Did you know UTC’s biggest rival is Jacksonville State? I do now. I also learned that Moon Pies, which are phenomenal, came from Chattanooga.
I also learned more about what Mocs fans struggle with (Haskins and superfan Erik Gray touched on it last week): With major FBS programs nearby, especially in Knoxville, attendance is tougher to come by. One fan reached out to me to detail how a lot of people in Chattanooga are UT die-hards despite sending their kids to UTC.
2. I picked a favorite player. I chose Henrique Ribeiro, who just happens to be a 6-foot, 220-pound … kicker! Hey, if the world can love Penn State kicker Joey Julius for being somewhere in the neighborhood of 260 pounds, then I can do the same with Ribeiro, a Brazil native with some serious talent. I got doubly excited when I mentioned him on Twitter and fans joined in:
A keg with legs!!
3. I created a Saturday tradition for myself. One wrinkle to this tale is I work on Saturdays, so I needed to find a way to express my fandom while writing. So I did a little tailgate in my living room that morning — I grilled a sausage and downed a Bloody Mary (it was a virgin, For The Win editors!) while sipping water from a bottle with a UTC koozie. I wore a Chattanooga jacket and had a Mocs scarf out while typing away and watching the live stream. It really felt like gameday.
4. I’m surrounded by some similarly die-hard fans. Due to technical issues, the livestream of Saturday’s game didn’t quite work for some of the first quarter. One tweet later and I had a bunch of fans confirming it wasn’t just me and directing me to local radio streams while I waited. Thanks to those who reached out, I missed just a few snaps.
5. Overall, I got a taste for life as an FCS football fan. Having to follow your favorite team on a conference livestream instead of a major network is tough, as is being surrounded by some of the biggest names in college football. That’s really what hit me this week — there are maybe 40 really big FBS football programs around the country, and then there are countless others at all levels. It’s tough enough to root for a winning team, but even those with success may not have anywhere close to the same support as a Michigan or USC or Auburn.
For now, all I can report is the Mocs are a top-three FCS squad in the country with a 5-0 record, a game against a top-10 team in The Citadel in two weeks … and a final regular season game at Alabama (gulp) already on the horizon.
Source: USA Today Fan Sports Poll